Article 37-Estate Planning Series: So Which Veterans Can Qualify for the Improved Pension Benefit?

Written by Wright Law on . Posted in Estate Planning

In recent weeks I introduced a benefit available to some veterans, called the improved pension benefit.    This column will address how to qualify for this benefit. 

To qualify, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active service with at least one day of active service during a qualifying war period.  The Veteran must also have received a discharge other than “dishonorable.”

The qualifying war periods are as follows:

  • WWI – April 6, 1917 through November 11, 1920 (or April 1, 1920 if in Russia)
  • WWII – December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946
  • Korean – June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam Era - February 28, 1961 for Veterans serving in Vietnam or (August 5, 1964 for all others) through May 7, 1975
  • Persian Gulf – August 2, 1990 through a date yet to be determined.

So what constitutes “active service?”  In general, “active service” means full time service in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, Women’s Corp, and Nursing Corp.  However, active duty for training does not qualify as active service.

Last week, I stated that a veteran must have a health need to qualify.  For the basic pension benefit, this health need is met upon the veteran turning age 65.  However, additional pension benefits are available if the veteran has health needs that render him/her housebound or which require the aid of another person to perform certain activities of daily living.

Significantly, this is a benefit that is also available to spouses of Veterans, but only if the veteran met the qualifying criteria above and is now deceased.   Further the veteran and surviving spouse must have been married at the time of the veteran’s death and for at least a year previously. They must also have been living together unless the separation was unavoidable (i.e. one spouse needs nursing home care assistance).

If these criteria have been met, there remain certain asset and income limits.  I will explain those in my next column.

© 2015 Steven J Wright  

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